What It Was
What it was, was serious:
the to-fro friction of her lips,
and the grunt of her eyes.
He looked at the callused hills,
biding his distance. He heard
her whiten her knuckles,
the way her teeth bit
his smileís tight tourniquet.
She leaned in closely,
and stripped every syllable;
he gazed at the bleached grass,
shivering. You have no
right, she said. No right.
Which is what it was.
Helen Of Troy In The High Street
I got the toga in Marks. I took it back
and changed it for another, they
never mind. Itís what they do. The clasp
was in a sale, Monsoon, cheap and almost cheerful.
I nabbed one for Cassandra. She doesnít
do shopping, sheís too busy
beating her breasts. Pulp they are.
Beware a Greek bearing false gift tokens,
thatís the latest. Hectorís pectorals are nice.
They burnish under his dull bulge of armour,
all blood and guts. Ravel for the sandals.
Jigsaw for this smouldered skirt. I tried it
on. Assistants grin, they clench their smiles
as if they were pilfered. They do not know
a bargain when they see one. Itís the siege:
in Gap, theyíre piling them high. Miss Selfridge
has gone over to the other side
of the street. All change. And everyone must go.
I went to Paris. No malls in Sparta, I said,
itís all loss leaders. He gave a sullen laugh,
cut my Advantage card in half. He reads
my face like a famous statement, the one
about the ships. Itís becoming a bore.
There must be something, something else in
store for me. Iím going off the rails.
My neighbourís mother hosts a quiz-show;
you enter to the strains of Zarathustra, and leave
with a booby florin. She stokes your tea
and pats her patchwork dachsunds. It is important
to wear your shirt outside your trousers: otherwise
you boil to a tee Ė she keeps her cameras
blazing mad, even when August is sultry.
The stupid questions first: what are you like?
Luckily, you looked it up, say (d) please, because
you donít feel (a). My husband wore horn-rims,
she tells you, and hands you her photographs
on a laminated salver. You go for the bloke
with breeze lodged in his brylcreem. Correct.
That was the one she met at Margate, parking
her hands on his hip-flask. He was engaged,
floozy, smoked too much, didnít like dogs at all,
yes, youíre into the next round. The radiators
gurgle their applause. She shuffles her lips.
Now for the curly: how is your mother doing?
Her eyes are tricksy, open like sea anemones
in which I am the afternoonís clown fish, cleaning
her webbed memory. Very well. The clockís
gong bangs softly. She turns like a bathchair,
snoozes. I leave her, almost empty-handed.